This past week I did something I thought I might never get the privilege of doing in my lifetime.
I picked out five nice dress shirts that matched (but not too much) for the five handsome boys in my life; put on a scarf from my closet that tied them all together, and dragged my six-pack down to Two Moon Park for a half hour with our favorite photographer.
We actually took family pictures.
Professionally-done; a true family photo shoot.
I almost couldn’t believe it happened, but I know one of these days, that amazing photographer is going to email me a link to check out the proof that it actually did.
The pictures that will prove that I have my dream family, when sometimes I feel the need to say “pinch me” because this can’t actually be MY life.
I have a husband who is not only hard-working, caring, and smart; but a wonderful daddy as well. (And handsome, to boot!) He is my soul mate and my best friend. It took me a while to find him, but I know I was supposed to find him in my lifetime.
I have three stepsons who are the sweetest, most well-behaved boys you will ever meet, and even more importantly–the BEST big brothers.
And we all have Hank. The little boy I dreamed of all those years and finally have; blue eyes, blond hair, and a beating heart.
I still have to pinch myself about him, too. Every day.
This family of mine is my whole world now, and I have been focusing on my gratitude now that fall is here. Things are slowing down–thank goodness–we’re catching our breath after our crazy summer, and Thanksgiving time is right around the corner. I have never had a year to be so grateful.
I literally have everything I have ever wanted. How many people can say that? I mean, say that and TRULY mean it? Probably not very many.
It’s not what you have in life, but who you have in life that truly matters. And I have the most amazing people in mine.
I want for nothing. My cup runneth over.
And maybe I will believe it myself, once I have one of those amazing Tina Stinson photos on my wall as my proof that it isn’t just a dream I’m about to wake up from.
My hubs and I, we are not perfect. But we sure do try.
Friday night was one of those fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants kind of nights. A sick (teething) baby, errands to run after work, a birthday party to get ready for the next day, etc.
Attempting all of the above with the sick baby quickly deteriorated into a CRABBY baby situation, so we decided to divide and conquer.
Hubby dropped me and the poor lil one off at home, then headed back into town to finish the grocery shopping. I went in to try to soothe Hankers with some fruit and baby advil, but when I grabbed the box with the new bottle, I panicked.
On my way home from work that afternoon, I was in a hurry, and I had accidentally grabbed children’s advil, not infant!!! I immediately called up daddio, the math genius of the family, to try to figure out how to convert?/titrate? the big-kid medicine into little-one dosage.
Let me just say this: trying to compare Mgs per mLs, on two different ratios, over the phone with a husband who is driving, while both trying to use the phones we are talking on as calculators, is as hard as it sounds. And of course, the small print for dosage for 24 months and under simply said “call your doctor.” Which reinforced my fear that I might get this important calculation wrong. So I gave up. I told him to just go ahead and pick me up a few bottles of the RIGHT MEDICINE!
Which, he did, after turning back around once he realized (halfway to the store) that his wallet was still in his pickup, at home. Grrr. (I hate when I do that, too.)
We. Are. Awesome.
Pretty much NAILING IT!!
Parenthood can be hard. But–when you get to do it everyday with your best friend, with adorable little cherubs running around creating mayhem all around you, that you love so much your heart almost bursts open just looking at them–the hard parts really don’t even matter.
Even when you want to scream, or pull your hair out. (Or when the little darling does scream, and pull your hair out, for you.)
Even when the same little darling dumps a whole bowl of rice crispies all over your lap, on the couch. (Yeah there was that, too.)
Luckily, there was a silver lining. By the time daddy finally got back with the groceries, there was a hot breakfast-for-dinner coming right off the stove, which hasn’t happened in a loooooong time (me actually cooking him a hot meal, that is).
We divided, and we conquered. And then we had a lovely dinner together for about ten minutes until the baby decided it was playtime again. Yet again, we divided and conquered–daddy entertained jr. bacon cheeseburger while I cleaned up the kitchen, and then it was bedtime. Glorious bedtime. For the baby, and then immediately thereafter, for his tired mama.
Do you know what goes surprisingly well with breakfast-for-dinner?
Seven deadly zins.
Try it sometime. Especially on one of those kind of days!
We took down the baby gates today. Now, we have THREE flights of stairs, which are fully accessible to the crazy toddler they were off limits to for the last seven months.
Needless to say, this mama is FREAKED.
On two counts:
1) What if he forgets to scoot scoot scoot like we have worked so hard on, and tumbles down the entire staircase; and
2) When did my baby boy become such a BOY, he no longer needs a baby gate???
I am so not ready for this.
The hubs repurposed one of the gates into a fireplace guard, so we technically aren’t 100% free of them. I guess I should rejoice in that. He is still baby enough to not be trusted around the fireplace, (which he can now reach just fine even over the hearth, thanks to his 90th percentile for height–ahhhhh!).
But–there is one upside to all of this.
I cannot wait to bring home my first carload of groceries now that I have a clear path from the garage door to the kitchen! Hauling bags through two gates AND stairs with a toddler “helping” was never one of my favorite mom chores!
Hank decided last week that he was a big 15-month-old, and he had WAY too many things to do in a day, to waste time napping TWICE.
I, on the other hand, disagreed with him on that sentiment, and tried my heart out to adhere to the morning-and-afternoon-nap schedule.
It didn’t work. He won.
So, here we are, week two of only one nap a day, and we are doing just great! (Well, he is doing just great and I am dragging ass, but thoroughly enjoying my extra cup of coffee in the mornings–the one it takes to get me all the way from wake-up to the almighty afternoon nap.)
Here I was thinking that he would make it to eighteen months (at least!), before he kicked the morning nap I loved so much. The nap that allowed me to shower in peace, to eat eggs that were actually WARM, to sneak off to work early, to fold the clothes that just came out of the dryer, etc., without chasing him around like a crazy person trying to accomplish allsome of those things while he wrecked havoc all over the house. (And ok, I will admit it; the clothes NEVER get folded right after they come out of the dryer. Maybe they do in my dreams.)
Ahhhhhh, those were lovely mornings.
Nowadays, we just go directly from wake-up (zero) to full-bore playtime (sixty) in about 5.2 seconds, and we now stay there until 12:30 or 1:00, when we crater.
And I mean CRATER. I have never seen a little boy nod off in a highchair, until this week. I have never hauled a sleepy baby in from a car seat, and actually PUT HIM BACK DOWN TO SLEEP, until this week.
But here is the part that makes no sense to me whatsoever: Shouldn’t a one-hour morning nap and a one-hour afternoon nap convert into one TWO-HOUR afternoon nap?
Well, no. At least not by Hank’s logic. He just graduated himself into one more hour of play time. So mama just earned herself one more cup of stout, sugared-up coffee.
And I don’t even want to think about the day when we will have to go to NO NAP AT ALL. Hopefully, I have years before that happens.
If I don’t, please just don’t tell me. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
Once we hit the 12-month mark, and my little Hank graduated from baby to toddler overnight, his development kicked into a higher gear. All of a sudden, instead of a new skill or sound or hand signal emerging every week or so, it was every day. Then there were two or three new tricks each day. Now it seems he’s hit the steep slope of the exponential curve that is toddler discovery, and I can’t keep track anymore.
This morning, he said “Up?” for the first time ever, arms outstretched to be picked up, like he had done it a hundred times. Scooping him up, I realized that in that brief exchange, I had relinquished my authority over whether or not he wanted to be held.
Then there were the stairs. He’d mastered going up them a week or so ago, but coming down was still daunting. We worked hard at sitting down first, then coming down slowly on his bottom. He held my hand (or daddy’s) tightly every time, steadying himself for each bump, bump, downward.
Today though, it clicked. My heart did a little flip-flop when he waved my hand away and scoot-scooted his own little bottom down the stairs. One by one, just like we had practiced.
One more thing he doesn’t need me for now.
Outside, after dinner, my bold new Hank cuddled up against our Great Dane on the lawn, using him as a pillow for an impromptu snuggle session. This surprised me too; the only affection he had ever given Roscoe to date was a quick pat on the back as he toddled by him with a nervous giggle.
Overwhelmed by all this new-found bravery, I was almost thankful when a summer storm rolled in and my little man suddenly needed his mama again. We hurried inside and I opened the blinds, so we could watch the angry clouds.
“Ma-ma-ma?” came his timid little voice, snuggling closer to me on the couch. He pointed wide-eyed at the ceiling each time the thunder rolled over the house.
“Hmmm?” he hummed, over and over, with a worried look on his face—his intense little mind in overdrive. I smoothed his hair and pulled him in a little tighter. His lip quivered and his stormy blue eyes balanced right on the edge of crying, brimming with anxious tears.
“It’s ok, sweet boy, Mama’s got you. We’re ok.”
Are we though? Inside my mama-brain, everything wasn’t ok. My husband had taken my three step-sons camping—two hours away with no cell service—so I was on single-mom duty.
In a huge electric storm.
Usually during the big summer storms, I am the one huddling close to him on the couch, shuddering at every thunder boom, hoping it will end soon.
Tonight it was up to me to be the calming force for our scared little son, since the daddy we both lean on couldn’t rescue us this time. Big storms with daddy are tolerable, but big storms without daddy are terrifying.
I scooped Hank up and carried him into his nursery, clicking the volume up a few extra notches on his bedtime Enya. Maybe I could cover up the sounds of the storm, and ease both of our minds.
Snuggling deep into the crook of my arm, he grabbed a firm grip on my shirt collar and sucked away at his pacifier. Silver-blue flashes of lightning glow lit up the dim room every few seconds; he hummed and looked up at me intently every time. Studying my reaction, watching me for how he should feel, how he should react. My little mirror.
Breathing out a long, deep breath, I tried to focus on the soothing strains of Caribbean Blue streaming out of the speaker on his bookshelf.
Calm, mama. I smiled down at him and kissed his forehead goodnight.
“Shh, sweet boy, mama loves you.”
We had gotten through many summer storms since Hank had arrived, but I realized in that moment how this one was substantially different. It hit me that for the first time ever, he was aware of it. He had slept right through most storms in the past, and we had always joked that they made him sleep better. Even if he had been awake for one, it wouldn’t have registered with him anyways; storm noise in the past was simply static in his busy baby brain.
But tonight, my tuned-in toddler was astutely aware of what was going on outside his nursery window. His baby startle reflex had evolved into full-blown little-boy fear.
I don’t have the luxury of being the scared one anymore.
I realized that whether I felt it inside or not, I had to show him only calm. I had to be a strong, fearless parent he could count on—just like his daddy. The daddy who isn’t always in town, to protect us from things like big scary thunderstorms.
As my tired boy finally drifted off in my arms, I felt the magnitude of my job as his mama hit me in a way it hadn’t before, and I didn’t want to lay him down in his crib quite yet.
I have a big job–I need to be his calm, for all the storms to come.